How Incat Crowther and AFAI Southern Shipyard met the spec to deliver high-speed, low fuel consumption catamarans
China’s Zhuhai Fast Ferry Company has taken delivery of a pair of catamarans that are ‘sleek, fast and low fuel consumption’ ferries.
The ferries – which will operate in the Pearl River Delta – were designed by Australia’s Incat Crowther and built by the Chinese shipyard AFAI Southern Shipyard.
Xin Hai Yun and Xin Hai Jun were delivered in December 2020. Incat Crowther explains “AFAI Southern Shipyard’s winning bid for the project was underpinned by the partnership’s ability to deliver a high-speed, low fuel consumption vessel which offers a step-change in passenger experience.”
Xin Hai Yun and Xin Hai Jun each accommodate 199 economy passengers on a single deck with VIP passengers having a dedicated cabin on the upper deck. The main passenger deck features amenities aft to maximise crew comfort and deliver an “open, airy cabin with clean forward visibility”.
Achieving low fuel consumption
Speed and low fuel consumption have been achieved in a variety of ways. Incat Crowther’s hull design has been created to boost energy efficiency. The company explains, “The vessels utilise Incat Crowther’s latest hull form, featuring a unique reverse-bow design which optimises hull efficiency and seakeeping characteristics, delivering reduced operating costs and exceptional passenger comfort. This proven hull form has been rigorously tested in service and continues to support Incat Crowther to deliver leading designs throughout the industry.”
The two vessels are powered by twin Rolls-Royce MTU 12V2000 M72 main engines, driving Rolls-Royce Kamewa S71-4 waterjets. Rolls-Royce has had a long relationship with Zhuhai Fast Ferry Company, dating back to when it was selected by the Pearl River Delta operator to supply waterjets and high-speed MTU diesel engines in 2015 for two high-speed catamarans. These were among the first ferries in South China to feature the S71-4 waterjets. In a press release issued by Rolls-Royce at the time, it was highlighted how the waterjets had been developed specifically to meet the reduced speed requirements of many high-speed ferry operators.
The decision to use waterjets on Zhuhai’s latest fast ferries reflects the trend in the fast-ferry industry to choose waterjets over propellers. The high efficiency of the waterjet pumps offers higher speeds for the same power, or substantially lower fuel consumption at a constant speed with less power.
Waterjets also give the engine an easier life. At constant rpm, waterjets absorb approximately the same power regardless of the vessel’s speed, so the engine cannot be overloaded, increasing its lifetime.
And finally, waterjets operate with less vibration and noise, improving passenger comfort levels. At speeds over 20 knots, noise and vibration can be reduced by more than 50% compared with propeller-driven vessels. And in ferries, that means a lot to passengers.
AFAI Southern Shipyard has a strong working relationship and history with Zhuhai Fast Ferry Company. Xin Hai Yun and Xin Hai Jun are the eighth and ninth ferries the shipyard has built for the ferry operator.
The shipyard also singled out the importance of the speed of the craft and energy efficiency. “The ferry was constructed with a half small waterplane hull shape, specified bow design and efficient waterjet, which will bring better rapidity and seakeeping performance. The performance of safety, rapidity and low fuel consumption will be more beneficial for shipowners and passengers.”
The shipyard is focused on building aluminium alloy ships, and passenger fast ferries and catamarans form a large part of its business. Other aluminium alloy vessels it constructs are ropax vessels, public vessels, professional rescue vessels, sightseeing vessels and small yachts.
As well as the Chinese domestic market, the shipyard also delivers its vessels globally. Its website says that in recent years, it has built more than 40 full aluminium alloy catamaran ships, including 85-m ropax ferries, and fast ferries ranging in size from 34-42 m able to carry up to 448 passengers, as well as inland river luxury public vessels and city sightseeing vessels. These vessels have been exported to Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, Canada, South Korea, as well as other countries.
China: growing fast-ferry market
The fast-ferry market in China is developing rapidly, with many marine providers and shipyards tapping into its opportunities. Rolls-Royce has found a strong market for its MTU 16V 2000 M72 engines, which are deployed in Zhuhai’s latest ferries, in the region.
The company recently provided the same engines to fellow Pearl River Delta high-speed operator Blue Jet Fast Ferries, for Xin Hai Zhu, which went into service in September 2020, its fifth passenger ferry and the largest and fastest catamaran in the fleet to date. Powered by two MTU 16V 2000 M72 engines, it is capable of speeds up to 57 km per hour. At 40.2 m in length, the ferry has space for up to 356 passengers and 10 crew members per transfer on the shuttle service between mainland China and Hong Kong. Dutch marine design company CoCo Yachts designed the ferry, which was built by Plenty Shipbuilding Industry in Zhuhai, China.
Indeed, ferries powered by MTU engines – notably Series 396, 4000 and 2000 units – have been in service in the Pearl River Delta since the early 1990s.
Rolls-Royce Power Systems head of marine business Denise Kurtulus tells PST “China is a very important market with great potential for Rolls-Royce Power Systems. In China and in the region around Hong Kong there are currently more than 100 high-speed ferries fitted with MTU propulsion systems in operation. High-speed ferries operate continuously at high speeds. For this reason, the engines must operate reliably over a long service life. The MTU series 2000 engines are well proven and have many operating hours of experience.
“The engines’ sequential turbocharging provides fuel-efficient operation in both low-power and high-power operation, and also excellent transient response. The engines also have a very good power to weight ratio. More than 800 fast ferries worldwide are powered by MTU engines.”
The Chinese market is also significant to Incat Crowther, which has delivered over 50 ferries currently in operation in China.
Fjord Line’s new catamaran has ‘substantial improvements’ compared to the ferry it replaces
Austal has delivered the largest high-speed ferry ever constructed in the Philippines to Fjord Line.
Austal Philippines delivered Hull 419, a 109-m high-speed catamaran ferry, to the Norwegian operator.
The vehicle-passenger ferry, named FSTR, is the largest aluminium vessel ever constructed in the Philippines – and currently the largest ferry by volume to be constructed by Austal at any of the company’s shipyards worldwide.
Austal chief executive officer Paddy Gregg says the delivery of FSTR during the current Covid-19 pandemic was a “significant achievement and a testament to the resilience, commitment, skills and safety” of the Austal Philippines team. “It’s impressive to see a large high-speed ferry like this delivered in the best of times, but for the team to deliver this new vessel during a global pandemic is simply outstanding.
“The Austal Philippines team has clearly demonstrated its ability to deliver multiple, complex projects under challenging circumstances, while maintaining a safe working environment,” Mr Gregg says. “My congratulations go to the entire Austal Philippines team and Fjord Line on the delivery of this exciting new ship, the largest high-speed ferry ever constructed in the Philippines.”
Fjord Line’s FSTR can transport 1,200 passengers at up to 40 knots and features Austal’s largest-ever vehicle-carrying capacity constructed to date, with a beam of 30.5 m enabling 404 cars to be carried across two decks.
Key design innovations
The ship features several key design innovations that enhance operating performance and passenger comfort, including a new, optimised hull form that will minimise fuel consumption and wake wash when operating on the Skagerrak Sea between Hirtshals, Denmark and Kristiansand, Norway.
The ship replaces HSC Fjord Cat for the route between Kristiansand and Hirtshals, and will double the capacity of the fastest route between Norway and Denmark. Fjord Line says the new catamaran will have the same crossing time as Fjord Cat does today – 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The company added, “But the substantial improvements on Fjord FSTR will be noticed by the audience. Passengers can choose between three different restaurants on board, we have a children’s area, and the tax-free shop is almost twice as large as the shop on Fjord Cat.”
One of the restaurants is a lounge, which the passengers pay a little extra to sit in. Refreshments and a permanent seat will then be included. The guests will also find a café and a bistro on board.
The catamaran isequipped with 16 charging stations and, according to Fjord Line, is the first Norwegian passenger ferry to offer this.
FSTR will also reduce CO2 emissions by 32% per passenger kilometre, compared to today’s ship.
At the vessel handover held at the Balamban Cebu shipyard, Austal Philippines president Wayne Murray said the delivery of FSTR was the first of three large high-speed ferries to be constructed at the company’s newly expanded shipyard.
“With the delivery of FSTR, we’re now preparing for the launch of Hull 395, Bañaderos Express, a 118-m trimaran ferry under construction for Fred Olsen Express of the Canary Islands. Following closely behind that, we have 115-m Express 5 under construction for Molslinjen of Denmark”, Mr Murray said.
Hull 395, Bañaderos Express, is scheduled for launch later in Q2 2021 and is a sister ship to Bajamar Express, constructed at Austal Australia and delivered in July 2020. Express 5, is a follow-up order from Molslinjen of Denmark and is scheduled to launch Q3 2021.